Following a grueling six-month organizing campaign and eight months of bargaining, 50 members working at Island Pharmacy ratified their first collective agreement. The front store clerks, pharmacy technicians and pharmacists at nine locations on Vancouver Island voted overwhelmingly in favour of joining UFCW 1518 last May.
Prior to joining the union, rate of pay was often determined by favouritism. Some workers received minimum wage while others had worked at the company for many years with little or no wage increase. “Things just weren’t fair. Workers were treated differently based on their relationship with the bosses. It was demoralizing and stressful to work there,” says union representative Dave Archibald.
Archibald credits the bargaining committee, composed of Katie Richardson and Lisa Watson , for their focus and determination. “Without them, we wouldn’t have a first contract. They got it done.”
Bargaining dragged on as the employer used stall tactics and, eventually, sold the company. But members stood strong and the union was finally able to get a deal, which was ratified in February. “There were some very unique provisions negotiated into this agreement,” says Archibald. “We were successful in bargaining paid coffee breaks and more vacation time, which is big. We also got wage increases and daily seniority for all, which is even bigger.”
Workers asked to float in stores other than their home store will now be paid travel time as well as a kilometre allowance. Other gains will help improve working conditions, such as Joint Labour-Management meetings, and language to ensure fairness around job postings, consecutive days off, and requests for time off. Importantly, anti-harassment provisions were negotiated into the contract to ensure a workplace free of sexual and racial harassment.
“I have so much respect for these members,” Archibald adds. “They worked really hard to bring in the union, and then stood strong despite the employer’s antics. This contract is only the beginning. It’s up for renewal in 2020 and we look forward to negotiating even more improvements then!”